Your great aunt. Your grandfather. Your spouse. Your mother. Your father.
The majority of people have someone they know and love living in a retirement home. Elders in need of care move into these homes; they’re often without the energy required to live safely and comfortably on their own.
That said, a retirement home should be safe and it should be comfortable. It should protect residents—not put them in danger. However, the home quickly becomes an unhealthy living environment when black mold develops inside.
Here, we’ll explore the reasons it develops, why it’s so dangerous and how you can prevent black mold in retirement homes.
Why mold grows in retirement homes
For mold to grow, it requires only the right temperature, a food source and moisture—three ingredients that every home has at some point.
Retirement homes, just like all other residential buildings, are at risk. Plumbing errors, roof leaks, cracks in the foundation and spills happen, and water damage results. Moreover, cooking, showering and other everyday activities in the home increase moisture indoors.
If water damage, or any source of moisture, isn’t dealt with within 24 to 48 hours, mold develops.
And while black mold in any home is bad news, it can be especially concerning in a retirement home, primarily because of who lives there and the many mold-prone rooms there are to keep tabs on.
Who’s at risk of mold exposure?
Mold is allergenic, and anyone can experience an allergic reaction to mold. While no two reactions are the same, with symptoms varying from one person to the next, some people feel the effects of exposure more profoundly than others.
Retirement home residents are especially susceptible to black mold exposure for a few different reasons.
- 1) Because they’re elders, they may experience more severe symptoms.
- 2) It’s possible their immune systems are already compromised due to past or current illness. Usually anyone whose immune system is weak prior to mold exposure is hit harder than an entirely healthy individual.
- 3) They don’t get out as much or partake in as much outdoor activity, which could mean they’re exposed to mold spores more often.
Not only are residents at risk, but staff members caring for residents are also affected by black mold exposure. After all, many of them, especially those working full-time, spend a large portion of their time at the home and (if it’s contaminated) inhaling hazardous mold spores.
Asthmatic staff members and residents will be especially troubled by mold exposure, as it’s been known to trigger and actually worsen asthma symptoms.
It’s crucial you recognize symptoms of mold exposure, not only if you’re the one experiencing them but if a loved one inside the home is.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of mold exposure, ranging from mild to severe:
- Mild: stuffed-up nose, itchy eyes, watery eyes, fatigue.
- Moderate: trouble breathing, itchiness.
- Severe: trouble breathing & trouble swallowing, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, mental confusion, dizziness and swelling.
If someone you know, who lives or works in a retirement home, is exhibiting any of these symptoms, do consider mold as a potential culprit.
These symptoms are too often mistaken for seasonal allergies or the common cold. Thus, they’re neither addressed nor taken care of properly.
Also, speak to your doctor about the symptoms and a possible connection to mold.
Signs of black mold
It’s not always easy or possible, even, to tell if a building has black mold.
In some cases, it requires the most up-to-date technology, such as thermal imaging, to pinpoint problem areas. This could be because they’re out-of-sight, growing behind walls and underneath floor boards.
In fact, airborne mold spores are so tiny that you can inhale them without ever knowing. And despite your suspicions, it’s never mold until it’s tested.
Fortunately there are signs, besides allergies, that point to a mold problem:
- Discoloured walls
- Musty odours
- Poor ventilation (humid air, condensation on the windows)
- Peeling paint
- Water stains
Do not ignore these and other signs. Mold can grow undetected for months—even years.
To ensure existing black mold is detected before it wreaks havoc on the home and occupants’ health, frequently check for the common signs of mold.
Also consider asking a professional mold inspector for his or her advice. Explain signs you’re noticing. Inspectors cannot conclude anything over the phone, but they may have a better idea of what you’re seeing, smelling or experiencing and whether it has anything to do with mold.
Where to look for mold
Searching a retirement home for mold is not all that different from searching a single family home or any other residential property; the hot spots are more or less the same.
It can be trickier, however, because there are so many of the same mold-prone rooms in a retirement home. For example, there are several bathrooms on several floors and, depending on the size of the building, there may be more than one kitchen.
Pay special attention to the signs of mold in the following areas, where there tends to be greater moisture and/or humidity:
- Laundry room
Here, you have reasons why there’s more humidity in these areas of the home:
What to do if you suspect mold
If you suspect mold, you first need to explain your concerns to someone in a position in which they can get professional help. If you don’t own the property it’s not always an easy feat to have the owner on board for a mold inspection or remediation.
Do your research: know the reasons why you suspect there’s a problem and understand the benefits of an air quality test or surface sample.
Only once a mold test, taken by professionals and carried out inside an accredited laboratory, confirms the presence of mold, will the property owners know for certain whether there’s a problem.
If there is, it’s important that remediation immediately follows, otherwise the problem will only worsen in time.
If you are responsible for having the mold taken care of, you must act fast. If you don’t, the health (and even the lives) of many men and women are at risk.
Staff, residents and their families have trusted that the retirement home is a healthy living environment, but it simply cannot be if mold spores are polluting the air indoors.